Creative Computer Graphics - The Last Starfighter

Some original material here, as scanned from ‘Creative Computer Graphics’ (Cambridge University Press, 1984).

This one I came across whilst searching through the Google Books archives, and intrigued, I decided to order a hard copy.

Google Books by the way is well worth a look, countless printed publications are logged and categorized dating from recent to way back. Most modern titles are subject to copyright so show just a selection of internal pages, but this is plenty to gain a flavour and if you have 10 mins to burn, I highly recommend a trawl through.

Above: A still from The Last Starfighter (1984) this ‘Gunstar’ model is comprised of almost 400,000 Polygons, this was four times more than had ever been attempted with any other computer generated model and each frame took 5 minutes or more to render on the most powerful computer available, a Cray X-MP.

So a little more about ‘Creative Computer Graphics’, this was then, I presume, one of the definitive coffee table books of the day, it’s easy to imagine it having pride of place in a mid 80’s Pixar studio, or Graphics Group as they were then known. Bound inside are 144 glossy pages chronologically charting the rise of computer graphics technology from the tentative first steps of the 1950’s right through to the early 80’s. The book contains some wonderful imagery (often horrendously crude), and in addition there’s some very insightful reading on early computer graphic pioneers like John Whitney and Jim Blinn, it’s definitely worth a look. Here then is a snapshot of that zeitgeist…

Creative Computer Graphics

Above: Wireframe skeleton for an aircraft on Evans & Sutherland’s original picture system, an F15  Eagle I think ? anyway great colours indicating the various sections of fuselage. This is of course something that could be pulled from any modeling program today, but back in 1984, this was the bleeding edge.

Creative Computer Graphics - Videodrome

Above: A image developed for the 1983  David Cronenberg film Videodrome, a body shock horror (does he do any other?). It’s a long time since I’ve seen the movie, so I can’t say I remember this, the garish factor is obviously through the roof, and whilst undoubtedly somewhat vulgar there is something enticing here. One thing is for sure, it’s so very, very eighties.

Creative Computer Graphics

Above: A nearly-solid wireframe image of a satellite in high orbit above Oceania, the density of the wireframe gives the Illusion of a sold surface.

Creative Computer Graphics

Above: A still from an animation designed at Montreal University, this is a simulation of a collision, in fact, the scattered debris of a Chevrolet Corvette…

Creative Computer Graphics - Tron

Above: A still from Tron (Disney 1982). Three video game warriors poised to transform in ‘Light Cycles’, the glowing red lines added optically over the top of the actors – I presume this means ‘in post-production’.

Creative Computer Graphics

Above: The books most interesting chapter is on computer art and the early adopting artists. As with the other sections, it’s a mixed bag, with plenty of dated graphics but on the spin, there’s some really striking experimental imagery, which interestingly hasn’t really dated at all. Take for example the above image ‘Untitled’ by digital art pioneer Manfred Mohr, this is in fact a wooden construction, plotted by computer, of all the 24 diagonal paths of the diagonal 000-111, generated from a four-dimensional hypercube (also known as a tesseract). If this fascinating exercise in mathematical minimalism is slightly beyond you, don’t worry, without further reading I’m with you…

creative_computer_graphics_7 Manfred Mohr

Above: Further experimentation with the tesseract, ‘Cubic Limit V: Restriction’ again by Manfred Mohr.

creative computer graphics 7 Mark Wilson

Above: ‘Skew f28’ by Mark Wilson. This one was a little tricky to scan, and due to the format I’ve had to scale it down, still it’s a very interesting piece and I imagine it’d look great run off a large format plotter printer.

Plenty more old school goodies inside but I’ll wrap up the post here,  if your interested in checking out more, have a browse through the title over at Google Books or you could pick up the hard copy for just a few dollars via Amazon.

21 thoughts on “Creative Computer Graphics (1984)

  1. Damn.. That satellite is targeting Sydney! Ah the 80’s.. I remember being so frustrated with computer/arcade games back then because they just didn’t hold up to my imagination.

    Even before that I remember a BASIC game called Camel that you played on a dot matrix printer based terminal.. NO screen!

    Thanks for the new posts Kie, you always pull out something cool!

  2. haha, cheers Wayne, yes that Satellite is pretty ominous, very Wargames – but then I suppose alot of graphics looked like that back then…

    Yeah it did take a long time for the games to catch up, I know what you mean there.. I guess they started to get more sophisticated mid 80’s though I remember really being wowed by things the big Sega ‘Simulator’ Games as they were so much futhere ahead than the home console / computer

  3. The Star Wars vector graphic game was pretty cool though, so was the other vector game called Tail Gunner. Both sit in arcade games.. God I spent a fortune on those!

  4. Yeah your right it was good wasn’t it, so was Tempest, but I played that later – actually I remember he first game I thought was great was ‘Spy Hunter’ the one top down race and shoot thing, I would of been about 7 or 8 playing it in an arcade in Skegness, probably looks like an NES title today… aaaah the simple things!

  5. I didn’t see a lot of Tempest here in Oz, at least where I grew up. Don’t recall Spy Hunter either.. Yep, simple things.

    Thanks again for the great posts Kie!

  6. Great post. I suspect that VIDEODROME image must have been for marketing. There’s nothing like it in the film that I can recall.

  7. Yeah I can’t remember it as I say, the caption reads: An image developed for the film Videodrome Digital Effects, New York.

  8. Saw the 5th picture on tumblr and thought, “hmm, that looks awfully familiar!”

    I scanned this awhile back, and put some not-terribly-high-res scans on imgur:

    But maybe I should make a torrent of the 300dpi originals 🙂

  9. magnet:?xt=urn:btih:49BB625FFD62D3271B225026B98965AF3204A803&dn=Creative%20Computer%20Graphics%20%281984%20book%29&tr=udp%3a//

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